'They put us in this ghetto and washed their hands of us' say Bnei Brak residents

Bnei Brak residents describe failure of gov't to provide adequate health services in coronavirus crisis. 'Did we bring the virus to Israel?'

Michal Levy ,

Police officers in Bnei Brak
Police officers in Bnei Brak
Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

Residents of Bnei Brak, who are virtually cut off from the rest of the country and under almost total lockdown, are outraged by the failure of the government to develop a coherent policy that would genuinely protect the health of the city’s residents.

“My father is an elderly man,” one resident told Hamevaser, a haredi newspaper. “He was showing symptoms that looked like coronavirus. We called MDA (Magen David Adom), and we were on the line for hours waiting to speak to someone. Finally, we got through and they told us they would send someone to test him. But not long after, they called back and said that they’re not coming after all. Instead, they told him to go to the health fund clinic and he’d be tested there.”

“I want to stress that I’m talking about an elderly man who even when he’s healthy needs to be accompanied everywhere. What’s more, they’re always telling us to keep the elderly indoors because of their vulnerability to coronavirus. But we had no choice, so we took him to the clinic. We got the test result last night, and it was positive. So now the whole family is in isolation.

“When they talk about how effective the lockdown of Bnei Brak is, it’s just to make impressive headlines in the newspapers,” he concluded. “The reality on the ground is that there’s a catastrophe in the making here. And no one is doing anything to prevent it.”

Similar testimony was given by a resident in his twenties from the Zichron Meir neighborhood of Bnei Brak.

“All the decision-makers are proudly brandishing their lockdown and its supposed benefits,” he said. “I have a three-year-old who started showing symptoms. He has a dry cough and he was coughing non-stop for over a day. We called MDA last Friday and they told us that our request would be processed and that they would soon be contacting us.”

“Well, that was last Friday,” he said on Tuesday, “and so far, they haven’t called back to tell us anything about a test. Nobody’s come to do a test – all they do is call from time to time warning us not to leave the house, even though my son hasn’t yet been tested.”

“They don’t seem to have any plan to protect the health of the residents here,” he emphasized. “They are sowing panic in the general population, but when it comes to doing something about it, they have no answers. And whose fault is it? The haredim, of course, like always.”

He added that, “We feel that nobody cares what happens here. The worst could happen, G-d forbid, and they wouldn’t care. They put us in this ghetto and branded us carriers of disease, and then they washed their hands of us as far as our health goes. The main thing was that they could promise the secular population that they were ‘protected from us,’ and then, as far as they were concerned, the story was over.”

“Did we introduce this virus to the country?” said another frustrated haredi. “We don’t go on vacations in Italy or on fancy cruises. We were right here at home, minding our own business, until holiday-makers brought this epidemic into Israel, and now they blame us for spreading it.”